The U.S. Department of Justice has imposed a $4 billion fine on BP Oil to settle its criminal liability over the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill that killed 11 people and dumped millions of barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico for nearly three months.
The DOJ fine will be paid over a period of five years; BP will also pay $525 million to the Securities and Exchange Commission over three years, reports the BBC.
In addition to the criminal penalties imposed by the Obama administration, BP also has raised an estimated $42 billion to cover liabilities from the incident.
The British company reportedly put up about 75 percent of the $20 billion Gulf of Mexico compensation fund; only $5.1 billion of which came from three smaller firms that accepted responsibility for the accident. A group of lawyers called the Plaintiffs’ Steering Committee also won a $7.8 billion settlement from BP for the victims of the spill.
Although no amount of money could ever give back the lives that were lost or undo the monumental harm unleashed on the ecosystem, BP’s acceptance of criminal liability – including a felony count – may bring some vindication to those who have suffered as a result of the disaster.
The BBC reports that BP will plead guilty to:
- 11 counts of Misconduct or Neglect of Ship’s Officers, resulting in 11 deaths
- 1 misdemeanor count under the Clean Water Act
- 1 misdemeanor count under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act
- 1 felony count of obstruction of Congress
In addition, “it is thought that a small number of BP staff may be arrested,” said BBC business editor Robert Peston.
BP chairman Carl-Henric Svanberg indicated in a statement that this historic criminal penalty will allow the company to vigorously defend itself against the remaining civil claims. A civil trial over negligence is scheduled to begin in New Orleans in February 2013.